Hill, Reginald. A Clubbable Woman.

Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 1984.

The author began his detective series featuring Detective Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel and his sidekick, Peter Pascoe, in 1970 and there have been nearly two dozen installments in the forty years since, but somehow I never got around to reading them until recently. (And I wonder why it took fourteen years for this first book to be published in the U.S., when a number of subsequent volumes had already appeared here.)

I started with a couple of the more recent volumes, which had won awards, but I reckoned I ought to go back and begin at the beginning, in what now seems like the distant past.

My biggest problem with following the story, actually, is the fact that I know even less about rugby than I do about cricket, and the local sports club is the focus of the action. “Connie” Connon used to be a near-national-level player but broke his ankle at the wrong moment at the peak of his career and never really made it to the top. Now, he’s nearly forty and an assistant personnel manager for a local company, with a wife who used to be the belle of the clubhouse and a daughter away at a teachers college. He gets talked into putting on the uniform again one Saturday to fill in for a missing player and has his bell rung good and hard. A small concussion, probably, and he passes out on his bed at home. When he comes to and goes downstairs, he finds his wife dead in front of the television with a deep dent in her forehead that might have been made by a hammer. That’s the set-up. The large-economy-size Dalziel (known in his rugby days as “Bruiser”) is also a member of the club, so he knows all the potential suspects. Pascoe, a university graduate (just beginning to be a thing among British police in 1970) is a footballer (i.e., soccer player) with a rather low opinion of rugby, but he’s a good detective.

The plot also involves the manager of the club who is very jealous of the attentions paid by the younger players to his much younger and extremely sexy wife, and the slightly lower-class neighbors across the street from Connon (class is, or was, far more important in all aspects of British life than in the U.S.), and also Jenny Connon, who has come home to look after her father and who is followed by a young suitor, and various other members of the sporting community and their spouses.

The characters are nicely developed and the plot and narrative style are exceptionally well worked out for a first novel, and I guess I’ll be gradually working my way through the whole series. I do have a chronological problem, though, from a present-day perspective. Dalziel is already a Superintendent in this first story and is described as going gray, so it’s reasonable to guess he’s around fifty. Pascoe is twenty-nine, and has just made Detective Sergeant. In the most recent book in the series, published just a couple years ago, Pascoe (now a DCI) would have to be over seventy — and Dalziel, who has now been a Superintendent for at least forty years, must be well into his nineties. Time obviously doesn’t work the same way in their universe. And, frankly, the author could have come up with a better, less eye-rolling title.

Published in: on 16 September 2015 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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